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Vancouver Island Regional Library Community Consultations

Shawnigan Focus, September 2015 

Earlier this summer, the Shawnigan Residents Association received an invitation to participate in a community consultation at the library branch in Mill Bay. These consultations were being held in all 38 branches of the Vancouver Island Regional Library system in order to receive input into their upcoming 5 year strategic planning process. A representative from the SRA completed the preliminary survey and attended the session on July 9. Although we are focused, of necessity right now, on leading the court battle against the contaminated soil permit, we believed that the provision of library services is of interest and concern to the residents of Shawnigan Lake, and that our organization could contribute on their behalf to the future of our local library.

The primary reason why we believed that this is a topic needing input is that in 2015, the VIRL system is the sixth largest line item in residential taxes for Area B, as follows (all figures are per $100,000 assessed residential value):

  • Kerry Park Recreation 63.03
  • Shawnigan Lake Community Centre 40.87
  • Planning 26.78
  • Solid Waste Complex 25.83
  • Community Parks 22.85
  • Vancouver Island Regional Library 22.06
  • 32 other functions supported by our taxes

For 2015, the total amount allocated from CVRD taxes to the VIRL is $1,679,563; of this amount $367,099 comes from Area B. By contrast, the next highest portion, $218,893, comes from Area A and after that $212,236 comes from Area C.

Two observations from the meeting:

1. The governance of VIRL does not adequately represent our local community. The nine electoral areas of the CVRD are entitled to collectively appoint one representative to the VIRL library board; Mary Marcotte of North Oyster/Diamond is serving this year. When asked at the meeting if Director Marcotte, or any other representative, visited or met with our local librarians to ascertain issues to take to the system board, the answer was no. Incidentally, the Municipality of North Cowichan, the City of Duncan, and the Towns of Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan each have an individual representative on the VIRL board. Since this arrangement is legislated provincially, our area cannot expect better representation at the system level, but the suggestion was made at the session that our local library could benefit from an informal advisory board made up of individuals from the communities of Mill Bay, Shawnigan Lake, and Cobble Hill. The librarian was receptive to this idea, particularly since throughout the session it became apparent that the three communities are distinct andhave different needs and expectations for their library.

2. Throughout the session it also became apparent that an overarching need for the Mill Bay branch is for a larger physical space, including meeting rooms for workshops, art displays, or book clubs, and for accommodating the needs of differing groups, as for example: a separate area for kid's programs (Shawnigan Lake has a very high proportion of children out of all the electoral areas) and a quiet reading area for seniors. Nevertheless, when asked whether our branch was on a short list for a new or expanded facility, the answer was no. Budget considerations play a part, although the regional system as a whole sets the priorities for new capital projects and bears the cost of any new facilities, not the individual community. Lake Cowichan just opened their new facility, Chemanius is in the design process, but it appears that Mill Bay may be waiting for an upgrade for some time.

Despite the difficulties of the governance model, everyone who enters the library in Mill Bay knows that it is a warm and comfortable environment with knowledgeable and helpful staff, and the consultation session overall concluded that they do a good job in the services provided. The focus of the Shawnigan Residents Association was on fairness and value for tax dollars allocated for library services, and on advocating for maximum input into the operation of our local branch.

Results of the consultation process in each of the communities are available here: http://virl.bc.ca/community-consultation-sessions-your-communitys-results

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